Druidism was the religious and scholarly path of the ancient Celts. Druids were the priests, scholars, and advisors of the ancient Celtic world. They studied for 20 years to become a full druid. Other ranks included Bards who were storytellers and musicians and Ovates who devoted themselves to divination and healing. Unfortunately the ancient druids didn’t write anything down and committed all their beliefs and practices to memory and oral tradition, so most of what we know comes from secondary sources and conjecture. Modern druids tend to fall into one of several categories including: Reconstructionist druids, neo-pagan druids, and fraternal druids. Reconstructionist druids are dedicated to reconstructing ancient druid beliefs and practices to be as authentic as possible. Neopagan druids tend to focus on the spiritual aspects of druidry. They honor and worship the ancient Celtic deities, nature spirits, and their ancestors. Other Neopagan beliefs and practices such as Wicca are sometimes merged and there is often overlap between scholarly druidry and spiritual druidry. Fraternal druids act as fraternal and charitable groups and use druid symbology, but aren’t necessarily Pagan in belief. Druids have traditionally been considered male, though there are accounts of ancient female Druidesses. With the exception of some historic fraternal orders, most modern Druid organizations are open to men and women. As with other Pagan groups, druids tend to be open and welcoming to people of all sexual orientations and gender associations.
As far as we know, the ancient Celts had no prohibitions against homosexuality. In fact, many of their tales mention homosexual relationships in a rather matter-of-fact way, while other tales talk of the deep bonds between same-sex persons. Roman and Greek accounts of the Celts mention Celtic warriors who were deeply insulted if their advances for homosexual sex were refused. Some historic accounts mention Celts who slept on animal skins with their male lovers, and other accounts mention them having a male lover on one side and a female lover on the other.
At least one tale speaks of lesbian sex among the ancient Celts. In “Niall Frossach,” from The Book of Leinster, lesbian sex is specifically mentioned as “playful mating.”
The tale of Cuchulainn and Ferdia is often brought up as an example of male homosexuality among the ancient Celts. These two warriors were also lovers, but the tale ends tragically when they are forced to fight each other to the death on opposite sides in the same battle. Cuchulainn laments the death of his friend with these words:
Fast friend, forest companions
We made one bed and slept one sleep
In foreign lands after the fray
Scathach’s pupils, two together
We’d set forth to comb the forest
Norse paganism includes Asatru, Heathenry, and Odinism among other related paths. Norse pagans honor and worship the Norse gods and goddesses including Odin, Thor, and Freya. The Norse gods and goddesses fall into two categories, the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir are the principal pantheon and are typically war gods who live in Asgard. The Vanir are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom and the ability to see the future. Norse pagans also honor nature spirits (such as elves) and their ancestors. Most of what we know about these gods and goddesses and their mythologies comes from the Icelandic Prose and Poetic Edda’s and the Norse Sagas.
Norse pagans celebrate feasts and rituals called Sumbels and Blóts, which usually involve food and mead or some other form of alcohol. There are two types of magic in Norse paganism – Galdr and Seiðr. Galdr (pronounced “galder”) is the masculine form of Norse magic and involves the use of runes and staves. Seiðr (pronounced “seether”) is the feminine form of Norse magic associated with the goddess Freya and is a form of shamanism. There were accounts of male practitioners of Seiðr, known as seiðmenn, but in practicing magic they brought a social taboo, known as ergi, onto themselves. Ergi was a term of insult, denoting effeminacy or other unmanly behavior. Some of the Norse gods including Odin not only practiced Seiðr, but cross-dressed. Certain aspects of Seiðr were sexual in nature and likely involved actual sexual acts. While homosexuality was looked down upon in ancient Norse cultures, Vanir gods and goddesses such as Freya and Freyr are said to have had gay or effeminate priests. Freyr is a male fertility god, who while very masculine and heterosexual himself had effeminate male priests who were said to ring bells.